Samling: Drop sex charges or no transport

By Patrick Lee, Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: A timber company will give Penans transport if they retract allegations of sexual abuse against its workers.

Swiss-based NGO Bruno Manser Fonds (BMF) told FMT that the company, Samling Global, made the offer to Long Ajeng’s headman, Jawa Nyipa.

According to BMF, Nyipa was asked to sign a statement prepared by Samling stating that the women in the region had retracted allegations of sexual abuse.

He was told that until he signed the statement, there would be no transport for the Penans in the area. Nyip refused.

According to BMF, logging companies in the Middle Baram region stopped providing transport for natives who complained about sexual abuse and rape by timber workers.

Vehicles owned by timber companies often serve as the only means of transport for indigenous people residing deep in the interior.

Roads reaching these remote jungle villages are also constructed by timber companies.

“The roads are not only in the (Upper Baram) area,” said Raymond Abin, of Borneo Research Institute of Malaysia. “They are all over the places, especially where they have logging camps.”

“(Samling’s manager) has given a directive to all its drivers (not to pick up the Penan people),” he said, adding that he saw a copy of the order.

When asked if the Penans would retract their sexual abuse allegations, he said: “I don’t think they will withdraw their statement.”

Sarawak-based land rights lawyer, Paul Raja, agreed.

“They shouldn’t retract (the allegations),” he said. “We are talking about the rights of the Penans.”

“If these reports (of sexual abuse) are genuine, no one should be left off the hook,” Raja said, adding that Samling should refrain from taking advantage of the Penans.

He also questioned the government’s failure to provide transport for indigenous people.

“The government should be responsible,” he said. “It cannot leave it (transport) solely to the company.”